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March 1, 2020

The 5 Disciplines of Execution needed in the College Application Process

Adapted from the New York Times Bestselling Authors Sean Covey, Chris McChesney and Jim Huling, from their book “The 4 Disciplines of Execution.” (Please note that I added a discipline).

The authors set to ask the question, “why do most people’s best ideas rarely come to reality?” Two things you can do to influence your outcomes are strategy and execution. For the student, your goal is to get into a “great, best fit” college. But, how is that accomplished? Awesome grades and scores help. But, what is the secret to being competitive when applying to Harvard or one of your other top choice colleges? According to Apple Founder Steve Jobs, “great ideas without polished execution are worthless.” Let’s start there.

The purpose of this blog is to explain the primary obstacle to execution and describe several steps to turn your great ideas into reality. You commit to getting A’s, decide to serve on the student council and excel in your favorite sport, and possibly start a non-profit. You soon realize that this is not as easy as it seems. The authors describe the main obstacle to execution. They call it “the Whirlwind,” non-priorities that seem urgent that overwhelm your more important but less urgent priorities. The Whirlwind may include social media, a friend’s birthday party or the family project to clean the basement. What you need is a system of execution to withstand the “Whirlwind.”

Discipline #1: Focus on your W.I.G

To accomplish your Wildly Important Goal, you must exert the minimum effort to maintain the urgent, yet less important goals, while allocating your remaining energy to execute your “Wildly Important Goal” (WIG). Sean Covey recommends you use the following equation; from X to Y by Z. For example, raise your SAT Biology practice test score from 650 to 750 by June 1.

Discipline #2 Determine your Lag Results

Lag results are outcomes that don’t happen right away, such earning an “A” in class during spring semester. Another example might be raising your SAT score from 650 to 675 by March 2, to 700 by April 2, to 725 by May 1 and to 750 by May 15.

Discipline #3: Measure Lead Metrics

Next are the “Lead Metrics,” parameters you can influence, measure and improve every day or every week. An example might be planning to study SAT Biology 2 hours per weekday and 4 hours on weekend days, or taking full-length, simulated practice tests every Sunday, or getting 7 hours of sleep each night. Tracking your compliance of these metrics on a daily basis on a Word table or Excel Spreadsheet gives you confidence that you are executing your plan, making progress on your Lag Measures toward reaching your WIG.

Discipline #4 Set up a Scoreboard

Having metrics are nice. But if you are not “tracking” the data, you’re not getting feedback that can challenge your assumptions, and provide constructive criticism. When you hit a tennis ball, it goes over the net or it doesn’t. It goes into the court or it goes out. If you just rally for fun, you are less conscious of your performance. However, if you keep score even if it is not a tournament, there is the natural tendency to fight to win. Similarly, if you create your own personal scoreboard of these metrics, you engage more seriously and this improves execution. Your weekly scoreboard should include your WIG, your Lag Results and your Lead Metrics. If you commit and track these parameters, over time your Lead Metrics turn into Lag Results which help you realize your WIG. It’s simple. It just isn’t easy.

Discipline #5 Schedule Weekly Accountability Talks

Rarely does anyone accomplish anything great all by them self. Perhaps it was a teacher, a tutor, a coach or friend that supported you at just the right time. If you commit to weekly accountability face-to-face talks with a friend, sibling or parent, presenting what you said you would do last week, what you actually accomplished since last week, and what your objectives are for the upcoming week, this is a powerful tool to keep you accountable and on track with your WIG. This can be somewhat annoying at times, yet also motivating. Staying accountable, most importantly, always improves your execution. The magic is in the process. When you verbally commit to your own goals in front of others, you have a strong desire to honor your word and protect your reputation. Having do this, you make progress on your Wildly Important Goal.

In summary, most people have good ideas or even great ideas. But the difference between missing your goals and accomplishing your goals is as much about technique as it is effort. If you need help achieving your goals, please give Ivy Bound a call.